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Baynards' Railway Children

Explore the film locations for an early serialisation of Edith Nesbit's classic children's story.

Distance 4.2 miles (6.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field and forest paths, section of old railway line

Landscape Gently rolling farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 134 Crawley & Horsham

Start/finish TQ 078349

Dog friendliness Keep on lead near livestock

Parking Lay-by on Cox Green Road, Baynards, adjacent to railway bridge at start of walk

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the lay-by, follow the Downs Link signposts down onto the old railway line and head north under the Cox Green Road bridge. Soon you'll come to a wooden gate as the old line approaches Baynards Station. Follow the Downs Link as it zig-zags left and right, past the station buildings, and back onto the old line. There's a small picnic area here, an information panel, and the Thurlow Arms is on your left. Continue for 350yds (320m), until a footpath crosses the line at a waymarker post.

2 Turn right here, nip over the stile, and cross the open field straight ahead. Keep just to the left of a corner of woodland jutting out into the field, jump the waymarked stile in front of you, and bear gently left along the grassy track through Massers Wood. Leave the woods at a waymarked stile, and follow the field boundary on your right.

3 At the top corner of the field, turn right over a stile onto the bridleway. Continue along the surfaced lane at the foot of the hill, towards the massive buildings of Home Farm. Follow the lane as it swings to the left past the farm, and continue for 80yds (73m) beyond the entrance to Brooklands Farm on your left.

4 Turn left here, onto a gravelled track that passes the back of the farm and continues as a grassy lane. At the end of the lane, carry on through two fields, following the edge of the woods on your right as far as the buildings of Vachery Farm. Bear right here, and follow the signposted bridleway until it meets the farm drive at a fork.

5 Now bear left, signposted towards Vachery Farm; then, 20yds (18m) further on, fork right onto the signposted bridleway. Bear right through a small wood, cross the wooden footbridge over Cobbler's Brook, and go though a small gate. Now turn right, and follow the field edge as it bears around to the left and comes to a waymarked gate.

6 Go through the gate, and continue straight ahead along the waymarked bridleway. Follow it for 150yds (137m); then, as the bridleway bears to the left, dodge up to the right and turn left onto the Downs Link. Follow the old railway back to the Thurlow Arms and retrace your steps to the start.

'After quite a long search - walking on remote bits of line in the home counties and consulting ordnance maps, we have found a country station and a line that winds through a tunnel between high wooded hills?'

Towards the end of a short feature in the Radio Times in March, 1957, the producer Dorothea Brooking recounted the difficulties of filming The Railway Children for BBC children's television. The country station that she found was Baynards, on the Guildford-to-Christ's Hospital line, where this walk begins, just a short way north of the tunnel that was used in the eight part serial.

Finding a suitable location for a story set in 1906 meant 'finding a station and a bit of line that is not electrified' - not that easy, even in 1957. Then, there was the practical problem of the 'modern trains running their day to day schedule'. Nearly half a century later, Carlton Television had an easier job with their 2000 remake of Edith Nesbit's classic children's story. Their film was shot on the preserved Bluebell Railway in Sussex, with a ready made set and turn of the century locomotives still in everyday use. Dorothea Brooking had no such luxury; in 1957, there wasn't a single standard gauge heritage railway operating anywhere in this country.

Looking back at the classic Radio Times layout with its period advertisements, it's easy to imagine a comfortable, timeless era far removed from the social pressures and unremitting changes of our own age. But far from it. These were the twilight years for Britain's rural railways; traffic had collapsed after a strike in 1955 and, within a decade, the 'Beeching axe' would fall on hundreds of little stations like Baynards.

But Dorothea Brooking must have been coping with a different sort twilight. Filming took place in mid-February and the schedule allowed an extra day for the 'all too likely event of bad weather'. British Railways had arranged for a period engine and four carriages, and the train was filmed pulling into the station from the Guildford direction, stopping, and going on into the tunnel. There were also some shunting scenes in the station sidings.

The film starred Norman Shelley as the Old Gentleman and Anneke Willys, Sandra Michaels and Cavan Kendall played the children. They were shown exploring the station and goods shed, sitting on a piece of fence (provided by the BBC) and flagging down the train in the cutting. You'll see these film locations right at the start of your walk, though the tunnel itself is now blocked. There are good views of the station from the Downs Link - but please, do respect the owner's privacy.

What to look for

It's ironic that the railway company's original plans didn't include a station at Baynards - yet now, it's the only surviving station on the whole line. It was built in 1865 to win the support of Revd Thomas Thurlow, who had owned Baynard's Park since 1832, and at that time it was the only passing place on the single track line. After the railway closed in 1965 the buildings fell derelict, but the complex was rescued by the present owners ten years later and restored to award-winning condition. It?s now a private home and not open to the public.

While you're there

Cranleigh Arts Centre makes a civilised antidote to a day in the country. There's a constantly changing round of daytime exhibitions, in addition to music, cinema and theatre. Recent displays have included the Waverley Millennium Tapestry, earthenware and porcelain from Wey Ceramics, and a show of mixed media landscapes by Caroline Lingwood.

Where to eat and drink

The Thurlow Arms overlooks the Downs Link near the start of your walk, and it's the kind of pub that sticks in your memory for all the right reasons. Walkers are made welcome in this Aladdin's cave of rural bygones, old railway lamps and memorabilia. There's also an extensive collection of photographs of the railway in its heyday. You can choose from a good range of beers and an extensive menu, with daily chalkboard specials and Sunday roasts. You'll also find a pool table and dart board.

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